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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

LITERARY PATRIOTIC DUKE                      5

said he did, but to his best friends he said he did not and that he
would do^it all over again when the necessity came for spitting out a
fly in one's food. Through these outpourings of his spirit, he found
himself, to his sorrow, at the head of all decent-minded scholars of
his time, and after a futile struggle with petty minds but great
politicians, he went into his second exile outside civilised China in
the island of Hainan, somewhat fatalistically and with great peace
of mind.

It is natural, therefore, that the life of this man should be the centre
of literary gossip and honoured with profound reverence, especially after
his death. For Western analogies, Li Po may be compared to Shelley
or Byron, a literary meteor that burned itself out in a short spectacular
display. Tu Fu was like Milton, a devout philosopher and a good old
man, writing in a profusion of apt, learned, and archaic metaphors. Su
Tungpo was for ever young. He was as a character more like
Thackeray, in his politics and poetic fame more like Victor Hugo, and
he had something of the exciting quality of Dr. Johnson. Somehow
Dr. Johnson's gout is exciting to us even today, while Milton's blind-
i^ess is not. If Johnson were a Gainsborough at the same time, and
also a Pope making criticism of current politics in verse, and if he had
suffered like Swift, without the growing acidity of Swift, we would
have an English parallel. The human spirit in Su Tungpo was
mellowed, not soured, by his many troubles, and we love him today
because he suffered so much.

Thercjis acurrent Chinese saying,that final fodgmejit upon a man
is possible QflJyjvhen the cover is nailed on his coffin. A man's life is
like a drarna7 and we can judge a drama only when the curtain drops.
There is this difference—a man's life is a drama in which the wisest
and shrewdest actor does not know what comes in the next act. But
real human life always evolves with an inevitability which only the
best drama approaches. There is, therefore, a great advantage in writ-
ing the biography of a man of the past, where we can review scene
after scene already completed, watching the inevitable development of
events arising out of the necessity of outward events and ininer tempera-
ment. After I had completed research on the chapters of Su Tungpo's
life and understood why he had to do what he did, against his deep
and sincere urge to forsake politics and retire, I felt as if I were read-
ing the predictions of a man's entire life by a Chinese astrologist, clear,
definite, inescapable. Chinese astrologists are able to plot the course of
a person's entire life year bv year, and are willing to put the whole
prediction down in writing for a substantially higher sum than usual.
But the hindsight of biographers is always better than the foresight of
astrologers. Today, we are able to discern a clear pattern in Su's life
with its many ups and downs, perceiving the same inevitability, but